Slavik Maiboroda – Supporting Refugees in Latvia

Slavik and his wife Liuba are both Ukrainian but, until Russia’s invasion of their homeland in February 2022, had lived much of their adult lives in the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. However, with their country now at war with Russia, they could no longer stay there and so moved to Riga, Latvia, at my Dad’s invitation. Slavik and Dad have been friends ever since the early 90s, when they worked together in Khabarovsk.

Slavik is a trained social worker and church leader, and now, together with Liuba, travels around Latvia, visiting, encouraging and helping communities of refugees from Ukraine. They also regularly take van loads of supplies requested by their contacts inside Ukraine down to the border with Poland and, in the early months of the war at least, brought back refugees fleeing the conflict. They are both amazing listeners and are able to sit with people who have experienced great loss and trauma, as well as offering all kinds of practical assistance.

In April 2023, my sister and I joined them on a visit to a group of about twenty refugees living in a converted kindergarten building in the village of Kabile in Latvia. There were both families and single people living together in a very supportive community, helping each other in many different ways. We took boxes of donated food supplies and spent the afternoon together, chatting and getting to know each other using a combination of Google Translate and live translators who knew English and Russian.

Sharing food is always an important aspect of community life. In the Spring of 2022, my Dad decided to plant a field of potatoes on our farm in Ērgļi in central Latvia, with the aim of donating them to communities of refugees. In September Slavik and Liuba helped with harvesting the potatoes and delivered sack-loads all around Latvia. The people in Kabile were so happy to receive them when Slavik visited in November, and were still talking about those potatoes when we were there in April. During our visit we also discussed plans for building a greenhouse, which the Ukrainians had identified back in January as an important project for their community. A couple of weeks later the greenhouse was put up, and celebrated with a feast of shashlik kebabs made with lamb donated from our farm.

Slavik is a man of strong, compassionate faith expressed in word and deed. His love for people shines through in the deep interest and concern shown to each and every person he meets. A few weeks ago he arranged to meet Tatjana at the bus station in Riga, to help her get on the bus to Germany, where her niece lives. She was feeling very nervous about the journey, and her bus was delayed, so Slavik sat with her for more than hour, helping her calm down until the bus arrived, and she was then able to board with peace in her heart.

Photography: Anna Roth
Text: Katie Roth
Latvian translation: Marta Štila

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